Spatial processes could play an important role in density-dependent population regulation because the disproportionate use of poor quality habitats as population size increases is widespread in animal populations-the so-called buffer effect. While the buffer effect patterns and their demographic consequences have been described in a number of wild populations, much less is known about how dispersal affects distribution patterns and ultimately density dependence. Here, we investigated the role of dispersal in spatial density dependence using an extraordinarily detailed dataset from a reintroduced Mauritius kestrel (Falco punctatus) population with a territorial (despotic) breeding system. We show that recruitment rates varied significantly between territories, and that territory occupancy was related to its recruitment rate, both of which are consistent with the buffer effect theory. However, we also show that restricted dispersal affects the patterns of territory occupancy with the territories close to release sites being occupied sooner and for longer as the population has grown than the territories further away. As a result of these dispersal patterns, the strength of spatial density dependence is significantly reduced. We conclude that restricted dispersal can modify spatial density dependence in the wild, which has implications for the way population dynamics are likely to be impacted by environmental change.